Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Old Helmet

Our adventure today begins in the old neighborhood of Panama City known as the ¨Old Helmet¨ or Casco Viejo. I took an 8 dollar taxi cab ride to get to this trendy yet sketchy place, but no worries, as long as you stay in the tourist police zone, you are safe.   The first pic you see is the first thing that grabbed my attention getting out of the taxi.  If you love photography, which I do, this is an absolute MUST!!  Just be careful with your camera and watch your personal belongings.  PS.  If you notice, I have had to start labeling my pics because I've had issues with my pictures being used without permission on other websites. Can you believe someone used my Leonard Nimoy pic for their adult site?!  Not cool at all.  But let's get back to Casco Viejo...
It's better if you have a guide to take you around the city who can give you the fascinating history behind this cultural centre. The guides are plenty and will offer their services once you arrive at this enchanting barrio. At some hotels, you can arrange to have a person join you from where you're staying.  I didn't get one because there wasn't enough time as I only had 1 day in Panama City before my friends arrived.  It seemed that almost every inch of the town was a photo opportunity until I crossed the line and left the police zone.  Thieves and other nasty vermin wait for the right opportunity to grab your things and run off....sometimes at knife point!!!  Is this place worth risking your life?  Absolutely.  It's perfectly safe during the day, but I wouldn't recommend going at night.  There are lots of ritzy areas within this barrio that are quite expensive.  In fact, this area is getting a makeover and you can see people fixing up old buildings.  Lots of money is being spent on renovation projects.
Founded in 1673, this "Old Quarter" is considered the most colorful and intruiging neighborhood of Panama City. Though now lacking its fortified walls and decrepit in parts(see above pic), this timeworn and earthy living museum is full of historic buildings, plazas, sidewalk cafes, and museums. This neighborhood was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Casco Viejo offers wonderful vistas of the skyline, ocean, and places to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. You'll also find vendors selling souvenirs on the boardwalk and around the plaza areas.

Walking the main streets is quite safe due to a heavy police presence.  Just remember not to go off the beaten track...especially at night.  I did actually leave the area, but I also speak Spanish and felt comfortable doing so.  This neighborhood is concentrated around four main plazas which includes much of the city's finest domestic and ecclesiastical architecture. Many conscientious investors have saved much of the area from demolition, but they've also created expensive chic restaurants and bars. So for this traveler on a budget, it was all about taking pictures and bringing my own bottle of water. 

Red bricks are commonly found throughout Casco Viejo and adds to the charm of this Quarter.  

I love the plazas here!!  Birds filled the many beautiful and large trees around this area.  The tree above is called the "Flame of the Forest".  This neighborhood also allows for a break from the hot, humid and stifling heat inside of Panama City as the ocean allows for some nice breezes to pass through the area....although not much:)  My camera took a beating on this trip.  My lens would fog up so often that I had to give it time to adjust to the humidity outside.  It was that bad!

For centuries the heart of Panama City's social and political life happened here in the colonial centre of San Felipe which is now called Casco Viejo....or I've even heard Casco Antiguo during my walk.  If you have a day or two in Panama City, I recommend a visit to this place.  Do take a guide.  Do keep an eye or two open. And definitely bring some cash for the ritzy dining areas.  You can easily spend a morning or afternoon here.  This will be one of the few city stops we'll be taking on this trip as there is a lot more interesting information to share on our environment.  Most of my writing will be focused on national parks, plants, animals(especially birds), and several of Panama's major agricultural exports. For some that may sound boring, but don't worry, I won't let my writing or pics turn you away.  Hasta mañana amigos..... 


  1. Thank you your very interesting article and pictures about Panama City.

  2. What a neat place for shutterbugs! Beautiful buildings and gardens. Looking forward to more.

  3. Beautiful little ancient town. Reminds me of Verona in Italy with narrow streets and cobbled streets
    Can be unsafe when it gets dark in secluded areas away from the main streets like most cities in the world.


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